Monday, November 28, 2022

On Vacation

Well, this morning I'm boarding a flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a week's vacation.  

Puerto Vallarta is one of my favorite places in the world to vacation.  The weather is nice and balmy.  The food is good.  The people are friendly and the city is safe.  Part of the safety is because there's a marine base right at the north side of the city.  It's not uncommon to see military patrols on the streets.

Also, there are all of the amenities of home.  There are shopping malls nearby that offer everything we need just in case we left something behind.

This trip we'll be staying at a resort in Nuevo Vallarta, which is about 10 miles North of the airport.

Someone told me how lucky I was to be able to take a vacation.  And while that is true, there's more to it than that.  If I hadn't gotten sober 31 years ago, I probably  wouldn't even be around to take a vacation.  But once I got sober, blessings kept coming into my life.

I've had the same job for 30 years.  I'm able to help other addicts change their lives.  I have the same home I've lived in for over 20 years.  I lease a nice car.  I have fairly  good health.  There's really not much in life that I want or need,

And the only reason I have this existence is that I decided to live a sober life.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 25, 2022

Accepting Change

Until I got sober 30 years ago I always had a problem with accepting change.  Even though I didn't realize it, change is all we can count on each day of our lives.  Yet if something changed in my life, no matter what it was, it was enough to set me off.

Losing a job.  A flat tire.  Arguing with my wife.  No matter what it was, it was an excuse for me to pick up the bottle or the spoon.  And I'd be off and running again.

But when I got sober 31 plus years ago all of that changed.  It didn't change immediately.  But it began to change when I incorporated the "one day at a time" philosophy of the 12-step programs into my life.  When I began to look at life from a 24-hour perspective it changed things for me.l  Instead of being on the hunt 24 hours a day for drugs or alcohol, I was living my life in manageable slices.

And when I started living within those little slices of time my focus narrowed and I was able to see what was right in front of me.  And not always looking into the future or lamenting the past.  I was able to focus on the moment and notice that life was full of little surprises, changes, and twists and turns.  And whether or not I liked those changes, they were part of reality, of the tapestry of my existence. 

And when I began looking at life's changes from that perspective things became much smoother.  When I didn't like whatever change came into my life I was able to talk to myself and accept that part of existence is welcoming change because maybe hidden in that change was a new opportunity or challenge.

It used to be that we all got excited when we lost an employee, or a vehicle broke down.  But I came to learn that we always found another person to work for us.  And somehow we'd find a way to finance a vehicle.  Things always worked out for us, one way or the other.

Today I look at life as being perfect just as it is - it's as it's supposed to be.  And I should simply be happy that I'm here to experience it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022


One who truly is in recovery never has a problem finding things for which to be grateful.  Until I was beat down enough  to want to stop using, I always was unhappy about something.  Once I got sober things changed for me very quickly.  And with seemingly little effort on my part.

The first time I noticed that I was deeply grateful for what was going on in my life was about 30 years ago as I was riding to work on an old used bicycle that someone had sold me for about $20.  It was a perfect sunny day, not to hot, nor too cold.  I suddenly became aware of a sense of satisfaction about my life.  I began to examine it because I hadn't felt that sense of well-being since I'd quit drugs and alcohol.  And I wanted to know more about it and learn to maintain it.

I examined my emotions and realized that because I'd quit using I no longer lived in fear.  I didn't have to worry about where I was going to get my next fix because I no longer needed heroin to survive.  I didn't need to think about where to get the next drink because I didn't drink any more.  I didn't have to look the other way when the police cruised by because I had no warrants for my arrest.

Because I'd found  a halfway house that would accept me without money when I first left detox, I had a place to live with others who were trying to change their lives.  I'd also found a sponsor who patiently took me through the steps of recovery.  

All was just as it was supposed to be at that stage of my life.  I had a job.  A place to live.  Supportive people around me who were facing the same challenges as I was.  I really needed nothing more than I had at that moment.  That was mid-1991.

Thirty-one years later, a few days before Thanksgiving 1992, I'm about as happy as I was that first day I noticed my level of gratitude while riding that bike.  Oh, I have a lot more stuff.  And financial security.  Homes. Cars.  More clothing and so on.  But material things are superficial and fleeting.  They come and go.

The gratitude I have today is the same as I had when I first noticed that I no longer live with fear and that I have a deep satisfaction in my life.

And I believe that as long as I remain grateful and continue my sobriety life will always be okay.

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Vultures Show Up

It seems that every family has them.  At least every family of any size.  I'm writing of those who - when a family member dies - immediately go into drama mode and create chaos and and anger among those who simply want to quietly grieve a lost family member.

Here I'm referring to the passing of my youngest daughter's mother, Mona, of a heart attack four days ago.  She had a large family.  And like many large families, hers has its share of addicts, alcoholics, losers, ex-cons and other fringe characters.  And before her body was even cool, they descended upon what she'd left behind like a flock of starving vultures.

Last year my daughter had helped arrange for the purchase of a fixer-upper house so that her mother would have a place to live during her last days.  My son-in-law, who has an extensive construction background, made it comfortable and livable.  He put in a new bathroom and kitchen.  Repaired plumbing. Re-painted the interior and exterior.  Repaired the fences and made it livable.  Mona loved the place.

However, as soon as she passed, a few family members immediately began using it for a crash-pad and dope-house.  So when they were informed that the house was going to be sold they were highly irate.  They accused my daughter and son-in-law of "being only about the money," even though they'd invested nothing in the house nor had they made any contributions toward Mona having a better life.

This is another case of family members having a sense of entitlement, even though they hadn't made the smallest contribution to the woman's life.  None.

It's sad that there are some people in the world who contribute nothing, yet have the idea that someone else should take care of them.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Mona's Passing

Early yesterday morning Mona, the mother of my youngest daughter, Veronica, passed away in an Apache Junction hospital of heart failure and other health issues.  She'd been in declining health for a number of years and her death was not a surprise.

She and I met when I came to Arizona in the early 1980s and entered a substance abuse treatment program in Globe, Arizona, where she worked as a counselor. 

After I left the treatment program she quit working there and we later became good friends.  Eventually we began living together in Superior, Arizona, where she was raised and where her family had lived for many years.

Our daughter Veronica was born after we were together a while, but we eventually parted ways.  However, it wasn't an angry separation.  She and I simply had different views of the world and drifted apart.

The one thing I always liked about her is that she had a sense of humor.  Even during our worst disagreements - which weren't many - we could make each laugh and defuse the situation.

Mona leaves behind many family members, including her children, Veronica, Theresa, Krystel, Arturo, Raymond, and Robert.  She also leaves many nephews, nieces, grandchildren, siblings, friends and others.

May she rest in peace

Click here to email John 


Sunday, November 13, 2022


TLC accepts anyone into its program who asks for help.  It doesn't make any difference if they have money.  Or clothing.  TLC accepts anyone who asks for help as long as they aren't a sex-offender or arsonist.  They can have a criminal record.  They can be broke.  They can be jobless or homeless.  Have no clothing or car or insurance. 

The only  thing they must have to enter the program is the desire to change their lives.  And in most cases the real change we're looking for is that they decide to get sober and educate - with our help - themselves about their drug habit.

While this must seem an easy chore, changing from a drug lifestyle to a sober lifestyle it is not always the easiest thing to do.  Depending upon how long they've been homeless, it can be quite difficult.  What we're asking is that they change their culture completely.  No more panhandling. Regularly bathing and changing clothing.  Seeking employment.  Attending 12-step meetings.  Becoming part of our sober community.  Yet, we're only successful as far as helping them change probably half the time.  

Because when they get frustrated it's easy for them to pick up  their bedroll and hit the road.  No more responsibilities.  No more stress.  Maybe a cold beer.  And a hot pipe of meth.  They're back in their element with no one to answer to but themselves.

Is there more that we could do?  I don't know.  I think a lot of it has to do with how deeply entrenched in their lifestyle they are - their perceived freedom of being homeless and irresponsible.

They most important thing I've learned about being sober is that we aren't motivated to change until we experience enough pain.  And I guess that's what I'd hope for the homeless.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 10, 2022


Even though it's none of my business, I hate to see people become ill because they don't take care of themselves.

This came up for me this evening when I learned that someone I've known for a number of years ended up in the emergency room because he couldn't afford a medicine he must take each day to keep him alive.  I'm not going to mention the medicine or the person to protect his anonymity.

However, I'm disappointed that he didn't talk to me about his lack of funds, because I would have helped him get the medication he needs to stay healthy. 

One thing about men, is that we hate to go to the doctor.  And, in many cases we also don't exercise or eat right.  All I can figure is that it's a macho thing; we don't want to appear weak or to depend on others for our well-being.

One thing I decided 31 years ago - when I first got sober - was that I was going to stay healthy enough to enjoy the years I have left. Therefore, I have no problem visiting doctors on a regular schedule and taking the medications I'm prescribed.  I didn't get sober to sit on my butt and rot away into decrepitude.

Simply getting sober isn't enough for me.  I like to feel that I'm contributing to the world and to those around me.  When I think of living sober I like to think of myself as an example to others.  Sobriety is much more attractive when it looks like we're having fun and enjoying success.

I encourage anyone who needs medical care of any kind to talk to their house advisor about what resources are available.  I promise that we'll come up with the medical care you need.  

We have one staff member who works five days a week contacting doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals to help our peers who are in need of healthcare.  And he's very good at getting dental care, glasses, and other medical assistance for those in need.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 7, 2022

Peer Recovery

When new clients arrive at TLC they are usually confused.  They don't know why they have to go through an orientation period.  They don't understand the guidelines.  All of a sudden, they're in an environment of a group of strangers who are all attempting to achieve sobriety just as they are.

If it's their first time attempting to live sober, the program can be confusing.  They don't understand that everything that occurs at TLC is about teaching them to live without drugs or alcohol.  Each facet of the program has some connection to the process of living in recovery.

Finding employment is related to recovery.  After all, how else is one going pay a service fee of $140.00 a week without a job of some kind?  The majority of substance abusers don't know how to work because they come to us from prison.  Or from living homeless on the streets.  Or staying on Mom's sofa.

So learning to show up for work is something they must learn.  We teach them how to dress and provide them with the clothing they need for work, if necessary.  We teach them that they must put forth effort each hour they're on the job site if they want to be a good employee.

Another aspect of the program is the sobriety education they receive.  They attend different types of 12-Step meetings the first 90 days they're in the program.  They also attend two in-house meetings with their peers, both related to recovery.

After a week or two of them observing what their peers are doing to stay sober, they begin to get the idea.  And if they simply do what their peers are doing, follow their lead, they'll be on the road to recovery.

And that's the beauty of a peer-drive program.  If we follow the example of our sober peers we too will begin accumulating sober days, weeks, and months.  If we really want the blessings of sobriety we can have them simply by mimicking our sober peers.

Click here the email John

Friday, November 4, 2022

Addicts helping Addicts

From the very beginning TLC's recovery program has been about addicts helping addicts.  

On the first page of our website is a line at the top of the page which says: "Addicts helping Addicts since 1992,"  which really sums up our mission in just a few words.  Therefore, we have always operated as a peer-run organization with only a few professionals on staff, such as accountants, bookkeepers, etc.  

Decisions about the policies of TLC, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, were made by the residents themselves.  In the first months, the houses were pretty much unstructured.  But those who were serious about their recovery met with corporate staff and asked to have more structure to aid in their recovery.

So as time passed peers put curfews in place.  House meetings were scheduled twice a week to deal with house issues. Things such as repairs that needed to be made, house chore schedules, food menus, outside meeting requirements - anything that could affect their sobriety or daily living was up for discussion.

Although we advertise a 90-day program, there really is no upper limit of how long residents may stay as long as they adhere to program guidelines.  Many who come to us are homeless or have no family ties.  Those clients sometimes stay for years and we become a surrogate family for many of them.  We have peers who have been with us for over 20 years, happily pursuing their recovery.  And most them were never able to stay clean and sober in any other environment.

We have always been evolving.  And in the weeks and months ahead you'll see more changes in our website, in our program structure, changes that emphasize our focus on adhering to the idea that peers helping each other is at the heart of our mission.  

For example, our houses will now be called Transitional Housing, as opposed to "Sober Houses," "Halfway Houses," or "Sober Living Houses."  Names have power, and we believe that using "Transitional" when referring to our housing will more closely reflect the spirit of our peer-driven organization.

We're always trying to improve the program and will continue to work toward that goal.  We believe there's great benefit to our community when peers help each other to a better life.

Click here to  email John

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Enjoying Recovery

I got word today from an out-of-state TLC graduate that a former resident who lived here in Arizona had passed away at 65 years.  It seemed kind of like an early death to me, because those who reach that age can have a life expectancy of 75 or older, depending upon how they care for themselves.

I know that none of us actually know how long we'll be here.  But those of us who get sober and take care of ourselves hope to enjoy our recovery for as many years as possible.  I'm one of that group.  Even though I'm approaching my mid-eighties I spend time each week exercising, eating right, getting rest, meditating, helping others and enjoying whatever time I have left on this planet. Keeping busy and moving is my credo.

When I got sober I made a commitment to live as wholesome a life as possible - something I've done for for over 31 years of recovery.

However, sometimes when I talk to my peers in recovery many of them aren't dedicated to caring for themselves.  When they're sick I might suggest to them that they see a doctor.  And I've actually had more than one of them tell me that the reason they don't see a doctor is because they don't want any "bad news."  My response is that someday we all get "bad news" whether we want it or not. 

Most of us got sober because we were tired of living in pain.  None of got sober to be unhealthy or unfit and feeling poorly all the time.  I believe that many of us did a lot of damage to ourselves while we were pursuing our addictions and that hopefully we can repair some of that damage by living a healthy life.

I hope that all of us who are sober learn how to savor the remainder of our life and enjoy it to the fullest.  I'm not judging anyone, but this man's untimely passing reminded me that I should make the most of each day - which is why I got sober.

Click here to email John